Only a bold heart would call a restaurant WTF.
But, let’s face it, it’s the mood of 2020. Short for — surprise, surprise — Wine, Tapas and Friends, WTF by Indochine Group is a rambunctious dining spot (yes, even in Phase 2) that defies any cuisine classification, serving everything from South American sliders and Italian carpaccio to Thai salads and Vietnamese pho. If it makes people happy, it’s on the menu.
That said, WTF is also where you can discover lesser-known Laotian food — after all, Indochine’s Michael and Sue Ma were born in Laos. There’s pik kai (Laotian chicken wings), xin lord (Laotian sun-dried beef, bo vien nuong (Laotian beef balls), goi con (rice paper prawn rolls), larb kai (marinated minced chicken in lemon juice) as well as Laotian-style red curry chicken with jasmine rice. All of which, fresh as they are, goes fantastically well with WTF’s extensive drinks inventory, which are mostly displayed on the floor-to-ceiling shelf that spans almost half the length of the restaurant’s space.
Wines dominate the booze list here of course, but our last visit wasn’t for vino. Joshua Kalinan, guest master sake sommelier and the first Singaporean to nab Sake Sommelier of The Year title in 2018, has rolled out an unusual but delightful dinner menu pairing Laotian cuisine with some of Japan’s finest rice wines.
I adore sake and drink plenty of it (mostly with Japanese food — but it was at this dinner that I discovered the spirit’s wonderful versatility. With a wide range of styles ranging from crisp and super-dry to soft and sweet to aged and rich, sake’s subtle, rice-laced flavour profile turns up the dial on the umami when matched right. Accompanied with fresh salmon larb (think of it as an wicked Asian ceviche) and plumb raw oysters, the drinkable, slightly fruity Hanzou Karakuchi sake in our first course brought out the sweetness of the seafood, while its dry finish complemented the juicy brininess of both the fish and the bivalves.
The semi-dry, refreshing one-year-old Kameji Kojitsu from Yamagata Prefecture came next with Laotian rice paper rolls, filled with chicken and crispy organic brown rice, and a simple steamed vegetable salad topped with homemade tomato dip. Everything about the second course felt utterly cleansing (yes, including the sake) and I demolished it like a greedy squirrel. Our main of a homely, country-style beef steak was paired with the Homare Kokkou sake for a pleasing combination of dry acidity and meatiness.
For dessert, we had the crowd-pleasing mango sticky rice and the Wakimizu sake, which is fruity on the tongue with a refreshing finish that concludes the meal gently. It didn’t hurt either that the drink is prettily infused with gold flakes — resembling a snow-globe for adults. I only wished we didn’t have a 10:30pm curfew on alcohol consumption, so I could swirl and stare at it while nursing a pleasant food coma. But that means a return visit for its next sake-pairing feast (follow WTF on Facebook for updates) is on the cards.
(Main and featured image: WTF)
#WTF, 49 Club Street, Singapore 069424, +65 6221 5132 (call after 3pm)